David Huddle's latest collection, Blacksnake at the Family Reunion, shares intimate and amusing stories as if told by a quirky, usually reticent, great uncle. In "Boy Story," a teenage romantic meeting ends abruptly when the boy's sweetheart realizes they have parked near her grandmother's grave. The poem "Aloft" recalls a widowed mother's indignation after she receives a marriage proposal in a hot air balloon. Haunted by the words on his older sister's tombstone -- "born & died... then / a single date / in November" -- the speaker in one poem struggles to understand a tragic loss: "The ampersand / tells the whole truth / and nothing but, / so help me God, / whose divine shrug / is expressed so / eloquently / by that grave mark."
Blacksnake at the Family Reunion continues Huddle's poetic inquiry into the power of early childhood and family to infuse adulthood with sadness and despair -- an inquiry conducted with profound empathy for the fragility of humankind.